Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pentagon undercuts Harper government spin

Le Devoir seems to be digging into the government's claims on the proposed purchase of the F-35 and they've obtained a Pentagon document that undercuts one of the big lines the Harper government has been peddling. If you've noticed, Tony Clement et al. consistently peg the value of contracts that industry might get by becoming part of the F-35 "global supply chain" at $12 billion. They have prominently floated that figure since they announced the F-35 proposal. The Pentagon document, however, puts the figure at closer to $3.9 billion with a ceiling of $6.3 billion.
Le gouvernement Harper affirme que sa décision d'acheter l'avion de combat F-35 permettra des retombées économiques pouvant atteindre 12 milliards de dollars pour les entreprises canadiennes. Or, un document du gouvernement américain, obtenu par Le Devoir, estime plutôt ces retombées à 3,9 milliards de dollars, avec la possibilité d'atteindre un sommet de 6,3 milliards, soit beaucoup moins que les chiffres du gouvernement.
You can see this $12 billion amount featured in the Government of Canada press releases from yesterday surrounding two Harper Minister visits to Canadian companies participating in the F-35 development program. While these are carefully worded, the constant references to the $12 billion figure there and in-person by these ministers as they travel the country are clearly meant to leave that figure in people's minds. The fact remains, however, that we'd be competing on the pool of contracts, whether we buy the F-35 or not, none of it is guaranteed, let alone this questionable $12 billion amount.

This is where the F-35 program differs from our usually required procurement practices. Guaranteed industrial benefits come with a competitive tender process. With the purchase of new fighter jets in a competitive process, those guaranteed industrial benefits could top these $3.9-$6.3 billion figures: "...every dollar the Government of Canada pays a contractor, the contractor must spend an equivalent amount inside Canada."

Also of note from Le Devoir's report, more confirmation in the U.S. document that the Canadian government viewed the F-35 program as an economic development program primarily, for Canadian industry, and that we warned the U.S. we would have a tender process on any jets we would buy:
Aux pages 6 et 11 du document, on constate qu'Ottawa avait prévenu les États-Unis que la participation du Canada était strictement «économique» et qu'un appel d'offres allait suivre pour déterminer si le F-35 est le meilleur appareil pour remplacer les CF-18 du Canada.
That further undercuts the government's ridiculous claim that the U.S. competition in 2001 suffices for Canada's needs, now. Even Peter MacKay seemed to get that, for a fleeting moment.

Tony Clement and his office, in a shocking development, were not available to comment or justify their $12 billion figure.